Crisp Coming Through

Evan BrunellFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2008

When words like those that follow are uttered in Spring Training, they usually precede a player shooting their way out of town.

“I want to play everyday. I think everybody wants to play everyday. If you don’t, I think there’s something wrong with you. I don’t want to sit on the bench. I can cheerlead with the best of them, but that’s not where I want to be, though.”

“I would honestly rather be somewhere else and play than be on the bench. I’ll take whatever comes and deal with it.”

And if that player isn’t given his wish to go elsewhere, more often than not you can bank of an unproductive season from a disgruntled bench player (see Jay Payton).

While Coco Crisp clearly wanted to do what he’d spent his entire life preparing for, play baseball every day, his comments before the season weren’t meant out of malice. They were an honest assessment of his feelings over losing playing time on paper to Jacoby Ellsbury.

But the question remained as the Red Sox entered the season, could Coco Crisp accept and even excel in a backup role?

For the first month of the season, Terry Francona found ways to regularly get Coco Crisp playing time. Primarily due to a slow start by Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate and the desire to rest starters regularly through the first grueling month of the season, Crisp found himself playing in 28 of the first 40 games of the season and playing well. Through mid-May, Crisp hit .317 with six stolen bases.

Whether it be karma rewarding Coco Crisp’s professionalism putting his diminished role out of his mind or just circumstance, injuries to David Ortiz and others saw Coco Crisp playing a similarly large role through most of the summer. Playing in 61 of the Red Sox next 84 games, Crisp unfortunately saw his bat all but disappear.

Crisp hit .215 watching his average drop all the way to .246. He even saw himself thrown out on a third of his twelve stolen base attempts. Crisp’s performance would lead Red Sox fans wondering what they could have traded Crisp for at the seasons outset. Clearly something, anything, would have a bigger impact on the team than Coco.

But an injury to J.D. Drew in the middle of August saw Crisp in the lineup with increasing regularity. With Drew out of the lineup, Crisp was called upon in fifteen of the next eighteen games. This time however, something clicked.

While all the world talked about Dustin Pedroia’s torrid pace at the plate, Coco Crisp was quietly putting up some impressive numbers of his own. In his last sixty plate appearances, Crisp has twenty-five hits and an OPS of 1.146.

Even with the addition of Mark Kotsay to fill in Drew’s vacated spot in right field on a regular basis, Crisp is suddenly hard to take out of the lineup.

Now that J.D. Drew has returned and Jason Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury, Drew, Kotsay, and Crisp are all available on a daily basis, playing time may once again get scarce. But knowing Terry Francona, he’ll find a way to keep everyone regularly involved.

One thing is for sure, adages are adages for a reason. The old adage goes, “sometimes the best trades are the one’s you don’t make.”

It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox having found more value for Coco than he’s been contributing to this team as of late.